Ted Kleine's article "Is This Man a Monster?" [July 27] is the worst sort of tabloid journalism. Mental illness and its treatment is increasingly well understood. However, rather than base your story on science, you chose to publish the contradictory assertions of the state's attorney and the unsupported speculations of other individuals whose feelings are understandable, but whose knowledge of psychiatry and psychology is nonexistent. Among the outrageous claims in this article, reported without the slightest bit of skepticism by your reporter:
State's attorney O'Brien claims that Lee Robin was faking insanity at the time of his acquittal, but now claims that the mental illness that caused Robin to decompensate 13 years ago will happen again. Well, which is it? Is he a sane and calculating killer or someone who, because he decompensated, killed two people he loved very much?
O'Brien claims that Robin was only pretending to attempt suicide shortly before the homicides in order to establish his insanity. How does O'Brien account for the fact that, according to Kleine, Robbin was so mentally ill seven years before the crime that he was forced to drop out of school and enter a psychiatric hospital? Does O'Brien expect us to believe that Robin was planning his murder years before he even got married and had a child? Under the state's attorney's fanciful theory, Robin feigned illness in college so that, in case he got married, grew to hate his wife and child and ended up killing them, he could get away with it. That's what I call planning ahead.
If the state's attorney actually believed that Robin was faking insanity, then it had a legal and ethical obligation to oppose his commitment to a mental hospital and to advocate vigorously for his release. It violates Illinois law and the United States Constitution to commit someone who is not mentally ill to a mental hospital. Unless the state's attorney believes that all of the other persons in our psychiatric hospitals are "monsters," it is incredible that they would allow a supposed "monster" like Robin to prey upon these innocent but mentally ill persons. Of course, Robin has not "preyed" upon anyone during his confinement at Elgin because his horrible acts 13 years ago were caused by his mental illness and that illness has been successfully treated.
Barbara Wronkiewicz's belief that no doctor would testify against Robin because Robin is a doctor is nonsensical. Thousands of malpractice claims have been successfully brought against doctors. In every one of these cases, a doctor gave an opinion that another doctor had committed malpractice and had to pay for her/his mistakes. Sometimes those payments are in the millions of dollars.
State's attorney O'Brien expresses concern about the stigma which has been attached to Robin and the negative effect it may have upon him. If this concern is real, then why doesn't he refrain from making inflammatory statements about Robin which he knows are not true?
It's OK to sell newspapers, but not at the expense of someone's life, not at the expense of the truth.
Mark J. Heyrman
Clinical Professor of Law
University of Chicago Law School